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Steven J. Niven

emigrationist and militant, was born near Pine Bluffs in Copiah County, Mississippi, the fourth of ten children of Jasper Charles and Mariah (maiden name unknown), sharecroppers. Though Robert never lived under slavery, the exigencies of the crop-lien system ensured that his family remained heavily in debt to their landlord and to the local furnishing merchant.-Thus Jasper Charles could neither expand his holdings nor leave them. The family supplemented its-meager earnings by fishing and by hunting the bountiful small game to be found in the nearby pine forests. Although we know few details of Robert Charles's early life, it seems probable that he gained his proficiency with a rifle in the piney groves of Copiah County.

The adolescent Charles witnessed the erosion of African American citizenship rights that had been established during Reconstruction. His father was a loyal Republican and even sat on local juries throughout the 1870s. In 1883 ...

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John Garst

bootblack, barber, porter, actor, singer, and politician, was born William Henry Harrison Duncan in Columbia, Missouri, to former slaves. A close friend, Henry Massey, persuaded him to come to St. Louis, where he was a “sport, a jolly fellow, a swell dresser, a ladies' favorite, but, above all, he was a magnificent singer.” As a member of Massey's Climax Quartet Duncan gained fame for his low, smooth, rich, sure, bass voice. He was also an actor and performed regularly at the London Theatre in St. Louis.

In Clayton, Missouri, west of St. Louis, Duncan was hanged for the murder of an Irish American policeman named James Brady in Charles Starkes's saloon at 715 N. 11th Street. A popular ballad complex (“Duncan and Brady,” “Brady and Duncan,” “Brady,” “King Brady”) arose after the murder.

At about 8:30 p.m. on 6 October 1890 ...

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Reginald H. Pitts

western outlaw, was born at Fort Concho, Texas, the second of four children of George and Ellen (Beck) Goldsby. Born a slave near Selma, Alabama, Crawford's father George Goldsby was serving a Confederate officer when he ran off to Union lines during the Battle of Gettysburg. When the Civil War ended, he enlisted in the Tenth U.S. Cavalry, eventually becoming that regiment's sergeant major. A Cherokee freedwoman, Ellen Beck was of African, white, and Cherokee ancestry; she also served as a laundress for the cavalrymen. Her marriage to George was not a success, and the couple would soon separate.

Although Crawford Goldsby according to some sources was barely literate from the age of seven he spent three years at the Indian School in Cherokee Kansas and from the age of ten he spent two years at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle Pennsylvania When Crawford returned home ...

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Graham Russell Hodges

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to free but poor black parents, Hodges received no education in his early years and at the age of ten shipped out as a “waiting boy” on a schooner bound from Philadelphia to the West Indies. Over the next few years he visited many European ports. During the American Revolution a British warship forced his vessel into New York harbor; destitute, friendless, and illiterate, he wandered throughout the region before settling in Warwick, in Orange County, New York. His employer, a man named Jennings, had acquired much property through litigation, actions that prompted his legal victims to plot to kill him. The conspirators brought Hodges into the plot and took advantage of his intemperance, developed during his years as a seaman, to persuade him to perform the killing. On 21 December 1819 Hodges shot his master in the woods The bullet severely wounded Jennings ...

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John Garst

an African American criminal whose fame lives in the ballad John Hardy, was hanged on the order of Judge T. L. Henritze in Welch, West Virginia, for the murder in January 1893 of Thomas Drews, also African American, at a camp of the Shawnee Coal Company near Eckman, McDowell County. He was convicted in Welch on 12 October 1893.

According to a 1925 statement by 67-year-old Lee Holley, a lifelong resident of Tazewell, Virginia, who claimed to have known Hardy well, he “was 27 or 8 when he was hung” (Chappell, 25). He may have been the John Hardy who was born in Virginia, was thirteen years old in 1880, and lived then in Glade Springs, Washington County, Virginia, with his parents, Miles and Malinda Hardy (U.S. Census, 1880 According to Holley he was one of a gang of gamblers about a half dozen ...

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John K. Bollard and Cecil Brown

the archetypal “bad man” of song, toast, and legend, was born Lee Shelton somewhere in Texas. Shortly after Shelton murdered William “Billy” Lyons in 1895, blues songs began to appear recounting the event, giving rise to the figure of Stagolee. Little is known about Shelton's origins and childhood except the name of his father, Nat Shelton The date of his birth is known only from his prison death certificate The elegant style of his signature in his arrest records suggests that he had some schooling Although he became the mythical Stagolee a bad mother who shot somebody just to see him die Lee Shelton was of ordinary stature Prison records describe him as being five feet seven and one half inches tall His hair and eyes are described as black his complexion as mulatto Under the column marks and scars the authorities listed the following L eft eye ...